HONG KONG — Police cleared a pro-democracy camp at a key intersection Friday and later clashed with protesters trying to reclaim the site in confrontations that suggested a government offer for talks has done little to ease tensions.
The scuffles came a day after Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, said he is ready to start dialogue with protesters. But Leung rejected in advance any major concessions to address demands that Beijing stick to promises of greater political autonomy for the former British colony.
The see-saw nature of the day underscored the resolve on both sides.
Security forces moved into the area before dawn as part of quick-strike strategies seeking to regain control of the streets after three weeks of demonstrations — which began in opposition to Beijing’s rules for Hong Kong elections, but later expanded into wider challenges to China’s control.
Protesters gave up the ground, but later regrouped and showed their willingness to keep up the fight. The Associated Press reported that police used pepper spray and batons to fend off the surge of protesters in the congested Mong Kok district, across the harbor from the heart of the movement near government headquarters.
Occupy Central, one of the protest organizers, said the police action in Mong Kok throws into question the offer for talks.
“It is unreasonable for the government to require the students to first abandon their position before engaging in dialogue,” said a statement from the group.
The protesters, led by students, have been demanding revisions in how Hong Kong’s chief executive is named. They have also been calling for Leung’s resignation.
Leung has ruled out any main concessions such as attempts to overturn — or even challenge — the Chinese Communist Party’s decision in August that provoked the protests.
China said that the 2017 election would be open to all voters for the first time in Hong Kong’s history, but that the choices on the ballot would be limited to those approved by Beijing.
Hong Kong was offered a “high degree of autonomy” by China when Britain handed over the territory in 1997. But critics say China is chipping away at the promise and that Leung is doing next to nothing to stop it.
Tensions have increased in recent days after clashes between protesters and security forces trying to clear streets in one of Asia’s main financial hubs.
Outrage also rose after a video, which went viral on the Internet, appeared to show police leading a handcuffed protester around a dark corner, forcing him to the ground and repeatedly kicking him. Police said the seven officers involved have been suspended.
Deane reported from London.